Iraqi forces 'illegally' expel 91 families in familial feud involving official: HRW

Iraqi forces 'illegally' expel 91 families in familial feud involving official: HRW
3 min read
13 August, 2021
Some 91 families have been moved by the military from Al-Aetha village to a camp for the displaced, Human Rights Watch said.
The alleged 'familial feud' is said involve government minister [Getty - file photo]

Recent expulsions from a village near Baghdad are allegedly part of a "family feud" involving a minister in the country, according to Human Rights Watch.

Since July, the Iraqi military has forcibly moved 91 families Al-Aetha village Salah Al-Din Governorate to a camp for the displaced, HRW said on Wednesday.

They were made to leave without taking their belongings, residents told HRW. One said that an Iraqi troop told them they were being moved "because of some problem between you villagers and the minister".

Human Rights Watch said Iraqi troops first turned the village on July 14 with a list of names and forced around 19 families into flatbed trucks. They were told they were being moved to an IDP camp in Nineveh, around nine miles away, and not given any reasons.

The military came back between 31 July to 4 August and moved another 72 families to Nineveh, according to two individuals who spoke to HRW.

Three locals told the NGO that the forced displacement was due to a family feud.  

In July, the brother of a government minister is said to have married a woman who had been married to a member of the Islamic State. The minister, who is from the village, responded to his brothers’ decision by forcing out the locals in an act of collective punishment, the three locals said.

"For years Iraqi authorities have claimed they are moving communities into or out of camps for their own protection or best interests,” Senior HRW crisis and conflict researcher Belkis Wille argued:

"But the case of these villagers being ping-ponged between their village and displacement camps is yet again proof that these evictions are often about the authorities' personal or political considerations".

As of Wednesday, the authorities have not issued any formal justification for what has happened.

Last Thursday, Iraqi premier Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's sent the national security adviser to Al-Aetha to investigate the situation, residents said. Before the official spoke to some evicted families, two locals were allegedly told by an aide no to raise the marriage issue.

In its press release, HRW urged the authorities to "immediately contact all affected families and provide them with the support they need to decide" on where they go next, including help with moving, including support if they choose to remain in the IDP camp or move back to Aetha.

HRW called on PM Al-Kadhimi to make sure those with authority "do not unduly influence the investigation of the evictions and that all officials responsible for the unlawful evictions are held accountable".

The New York-based NGO also urged the premier to launch similar probes into unjustified displacements that have occurred more broadly while he has been in charge, from May 2020.